Picture this: you’re looking for something and you want it now. You see an ad, a link on Facebook, or a result on the Google SERP, and you click it, thinking it holds the answer.
Except, instead of finding what you’re looking for, you’re greeted with the dreaded 404 error. That is a broken link. You hate those moments, as do all other users. But guess who else hates them? Google.
Broken Links and SEO Rankings
When a user searches for something on Google, clicks on a link that turns out to be broken, what do you think they will do? They won’t access your homepage to look around until they find the correct page, that’s for sure. They will quit that session entirely, and hit back.
This makes your bounce rate skyrocket. When Google sees that a lot of users are leaving your page after just a few seconds, the search engine will conclude that there’s something wrong with it. It’s not necessary that they’ll know the link is broken, but they do know a high bounce rate means that page is not relevant to its users.
So, what does it do? It lowers your SEO ranking. There is no point in giving your link a top SERP position if all the users leave your page right after they click on the link, is there? So for all your efforts to improve your SEO, and get higher rankings through these methods, it can all be undone in seconds with just a link that does not work.
Another way broken links affect your ranking has to do with page indexing. Google’s web crawlers need to jump from one page to the other to index your site. When it gets on a broken link – it stops like it hit a dead end. It doesn’t know what to do from that link on, so it abandons the indexing process which, again, affects your ranking.
How to Find Broken Links
You should monitor your links closely. A link that works today may not work a few weeks from now, especially if it’s an external link to a website you have no control over – such is the nature of the internet.
You can check for broken links for free right on Google Analytics, by creating a 404 error filter on your Content monitoring. This will track all your 404 errors, whether they come from internal or external broken links.
Once you find these links, you have two options:
1. Remove them entirely (usually for external links)
2. Redirect the link to a page that actually works (for internal ones).
If you’re investing time and resources into boosting your Google rank through SEO, you cannot skip the link audit. Broken links work directly against you, making both users and Google think badly about the quality of your website.
Complex sites have a lot of broken links, so you should consider monitoring your links closely if you have a lot of pages.